The Dallas Mavericks championship run that culminated with a thrilling six game Finals triumph over the Miami Heat last summer was as satisfying as it was improbable. As Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and others celebrated their much deserved first title after combined decades of dedication, the cocky and disrespectful trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh lumbered off the court without the championship they had all but guaranteed the previous summer. Dallas featured aging stars, scrappy players, overachievers, unlikely heroes and misfits who joined forces to assemble one of the most likeable squads in the Association. No one had more heart or chemistry than this ragtag group of veterans, and as Miami's polar opposites they were the perfect opponent to delay the Heat's impending dynasty.
Unfortunately for Dallas and its fans, I don't think they have what it takes to repeat as NBA champs. I feel like they overachieved last year, that everything went right for them and they caught lightning in a bottle. This is obviously still a very deep, talented, and experienced team, but they have plenty of formidable obstacles to overcome if they want to earn another ring in 2012.
Age/Injury-Seemingly everyone on this team is on the wrong side of 30. The shorter season could help keep them fresh for the playoffs, but at the end of the day they don't have enough young impact players. Kidd will turn 39 in March and his 18th NBA season might be the one that does him in. His scoring, rebounding, and assists all fell off last year and he's at the twilight phase of his career. The Mavs managed to stay healthy last year but should suffer their fair share of bumps and bruises this season, especialy since everyone brings 110 percent against the reigning champs. Basketball is a young man's game, and this team is built around old men. We all saw age catch up with the Celtics, Lakers, and Spurs last year, so I expect Dallas to fall prey to Father Time in the near future.
The Loss of Tyson Chandler-Chandler was the X-factor last year, giving Dallas the interior presence the desperately needed to protect the paint, grab rebounds and match up with the league's big men such as Andrew Bynum. He was a legitimate defensive stalwart who could intimidate opposing players, and his effect on the team reminded me of Kevin Garnett's impact on the '07'-08 Boston Celtics. Therefore, losing him to the Knicks via free agency could be a devastating blow. New addition Lamar Odom is a solid power forward coming off a career year, and Brendan Haywood is a capable NBA center, but neither one brings the passion, energy, nor fire of Chandler.
Vince Carter-The new Maverick has a history of loafing, sulking, jacking up shots and cutting corners on defense. He's not a great clubhouse guy and could have a negative effect on the team's work ethic and morale. Vinsanity will be 35 in a month and is clearly past his prime after back to back down years (and not even a pit stop in Phoenix with Steve Nash could revive his game). At this point in his career he's just not capable of staying on the court for more than 20-25 minutes each game, and I don't see how he can be much of an asset for this team. He could be shipped out at the trade deadline (if anyone will take him), but if he stays I just hope he doesn't take too much PT away away from the JET, who is a much more effective shooter. On a similar note, I don't like the addition of Delonte West, either. He's a solid replacement for J.J. Barea, but he's also certifiably insane. Don't be surprised if he gets arrested or suspended at some point in the upcoming season.
Lack of athleticism-This is an inescapable byproduct of the team's advanced age. The Association is full of high-flyers, speedy guards and mobile big men...and the Mavs don't really have any of those. Everyone on this team is slowing down, and I don't know if they'll be able to keep up with the young guns of the league.
Come spring, Dallas figures to make the playoffs, where anything can happen. But the Mavs have endured their fair share of early exits recently, and I believe this trend will continue. 2011 was the exception, not the rule, for the Mavericks, and they won't be hoisting another Finals trophy next summer.